Covid passes, vaccine booster for over-60s, 'enhanced' role for antigen testing

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has announced the next phase of relaxing Covid restrictions
Covid passes, vaccine booster for over-60s, 'enhanced' role for antigen testing

James Cox

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has announced the next phase of relaxing Covid restrictions, with some measures such as mask wearing and Covid vaccination certs to remain in place.

A number of restrictions will be lifted on Friday while a booster vaccination programme for people aged 60 and over will begin “immediately” following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

“Over the course of the last two weeks we have seen a worsening of the Covid situation,” Mr Martin added.

“These figures are a cause of concern and a timely reminder of how dangerous this virus is.”

The Government had hoped to lift the majority of Covid restrictions on October 22nd, but the plan has been amended due to rising Covid cases and hospital admissions.

Table service will remain in place for hospitality with a maximum of 10 adults per table and 15 including children.

The Taoiseach confirmed fixed capacities will no longer apply to outdoor activities, so matches will no longer have capacity limits.

Weddings

Capacity limits on religious services and weddings will also be removed from Friday. “The progress we have made over the last year has been real, tangible, and must be protected,” he said.

Covid vaccine passes will continue to be required for hospitality while the Taoiseach also encouraged people who have not been vaccinated, or received their second jab, to do so.

“If you are indoors with other people, wear a mask,” he said.

Public health guidelines such as social distancing and face mask wearing will remain in place until February.

The Taoiseach said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) had considered a recommendation of a few weeks of restrictions, but decided against it as the country will have to deal with the evolving Covid situation.

There will be an “enhanced” role for antigen testing, with antigen tests used for fully vaccinated people who are close contacts and have no symptoms.

A return to workplaces on a "phased and cautious" basis will continue, however, those who "can and want to" continue working from home should be facilitated.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that Nphet expected Covid-19 cases to peak at the end of October, with ICU numbers peaking at around 150 by the end of November.

Nightclubs

Speaking to reporters at a briefing, the Taoiseach confirmed “what traditionally happens in a nightclub will continue to happen in a nightclub”.

He said dancing will be allowed, but there was some confusion over whether other rules in pubs such as table service, will be enforced in nightclubs or whether punters will be allowed to order drinks at the bar.

When pressed on this by reporters, the Taoiseach replied: “I am stressing there will be anomalies, but we must double down as a society in terms of protecting ourselves and how we behave.”

The Taoiseach said the vaccine has been the “big game-changer” and stressed the importance of boosters, while the Tánaiste also stressed there will be some “anomalies” as restrictions are eased.

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